updated 9/12/2006 12:02:13 PM ET 2006-09-12T16:02:13

Guests: John Negroponte, Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Cofer Black

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Amid solemn music, tears of grief and moments of silence the country commemorates and pays tribute to the nearly 3,000 victims of 9/11.  A somber day of reflection in New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington, where thousands came to pay their respects.  This is a special edition of hardball from Ground Zero in New York. 

Good evening, I‘m Chris Matthews live from Ground Zero on this somber day commemorating the fifth year observance of 9/11.  At 8:46 a.m. and at 9:03 a.m. today dignitaries, families of victims and thousands who came simply to pay tribute fell silent to observe the moment American Airlines Flight 11 and United Flight 175 crashed into the World Trade Center towers five years ago today. 

President Bush observed the moment at an historic New York firehouse with many first responders who took part in rescues on 9/11.  Later in the day he paid his respects to those who perished on board United Flight 93 in Pennsylvania and then he laid a wreath at the Pentagon in Washington, where 184 people died when American Flight 77 crashed into that building.  Tonight on MSNBC at 9:00 p.m. we‘ll have full coverage of the president and his 9/11 address to the country. 

And Tom Brokaw will be here with me at Ground Zero to reflect on all the events of today after the speech.  At 10:00 p.m. we‘ll present our MSNBC “Living History” special, a great I believe, “9/11, Five Years Later.” 

Coming up this hour on this special edition of HARDBALL, we‘ll have reflections of 9/11 from many of those who were involved in the recovery and response on 9/11, including Senators Hillary Clinton and John McCain and we‘ll have rare interview with the director of national intelligence John Negroponte, who today is the president‘s point person for coordinating the efforts of all the intelligence agencies. 

Let‘s begin here at Ground Zero with Tom Brokaw, who kept the nation informed for many hours on all the fast breaking news of 9/11 five years ago today.  Good evening Tom, thank you. 

TOM BROKAW, NBC ANCHOR:  You know, this kind of kick starts my emotions when I come back down here.  I was unprepared for it when I arrived earlier this morning.  It has been five years after all.  We have moved on in many ways, but when you come back it does refocus your memory about that god awful day and what was so striking about that day for everyone, not just the journalists who were on duty and the political people who were trying to deal with it, is that it was so wholly unexpected.  We didn‘t know what was going to happen from moment to moment to moment.  We had no framework with which to deal with all of this.

MATTHEWS:  You know what I was impressed by watching it all over again today, and I did watch it that morning, is the way in a space of about an hour or so the news making, I should say the news collecting, ability of this country was on full service and you were able by 10:00.  I want to show you something, maybe you haven‘t seen this since.  Here‘s you reporting a bit after 10:00 that morning five years ago. 


BROKAW:  This country, the strongest country in the world has been the target of a major coordinated terrorist attack and the end is not over yet.  Even if it‘s confined to just these three targets, the ripple affect goes on. 


MATTHEWS:  Well there you were able to capsulize in such short, I was really impressed by your ability, of course by the ability of the whole NBC team, to put that together, to get all that info so damn fast. 

BROKAW:  I‘d like to pay tribute to everyone.  All the networks did well, all the cable news outlets did well as well.  This is the business that we‘re in and if we fail at that we probably out to get out of the business.  I said, from a personal point of view, that that day took everything that I knew as a human being, all my 61 years, at that point in my life, all my years as a journalist, my years as a parent, someone who spent a lot of time in that part of the world, it took everything that I knew to get through that day and to cope with it. 

I‘m sure that was true of my great friend the late Peter Jennings and Dan Rather as well on the other networks.  But it is on these occasions, Chris, that the country kind of coalesces.  We comes together, this vast complex place and we try to think about where do we go from here.  I was trying constantly that day to provide some context for all of that. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think it was inevitable that the country would, after a period of unity and on through Afghanistan, certainly the first reaction to the events and even in to the early months of the Iraqi campaign, that we would come to a divide in the road where people would see things differently? 

BROKAW:  I don‘t think it was inevitable.  It think that there are always going to be differences about policy.  I do think that now, on reflection, that the decision to go into Iraq and the foundation for that decision, which turns out to be porous at best, did divide the country.  I think a lot of people now look back and say what if we had only concentrated on Afghanistan and tried to do this a building block at a time. 

I believed at the time that Saddam Hussein was a great tyrant and that he had weapons of mass destruction.  I remember that I got a briefing shortly before the war began, the United States military had no idea that the insurgency would take hold the way that it did and last as long as it did.  I interviewed the president right after so-called mission accomplished and he thought that they would get through the insurgency in a hurry. 

In Baghdad, however, they thought that they were quickly approaching a tipping point, that if they didn‘t get it under control by the Fall of that have first year it would slide into what we now have, the verge of a civil war.  So I think that the country is, like the war on terror itself, it has a complex set of reactions to all of this.  We‘re not fighting a stated war.  We‘re fighting this unknown enemy out there and we still don‘t understand the roots of the Islamic rage.  People are wondering why we‘re not getting at that as well. 

MATTHEWS:  Tough call here, you‘ve been reporting news for all these months, it is, I think, an objective question with a potentially objective answer.  This Sunday on “MEET THE PRESS,” Vice President Dick Cheney clearly laid out his denial that he ever led anyone to believe that there was a connection between what happened in this horror, right here, and our decision to go to Iraq, or anything that was done by the Iraqi government.  He said I never suggested a connection, Tim.  Do you think that‘s a fair statement of the behavior of this administration, they never directed us into this war as a kind of a retaliation for today, what we‘re honoring today? 

BROKAW:  I think in any fair analysis of what they were saying, you have to conclude that they were making that connection.  Jim Woolsey was the former director  of the CIA, very close to this administration, said to me three nights after the attack itself that I think that Iraq was responsible.  Did they come out and say that Iraq was responsible, no they did not.  But they thought that it was part and parcel of the war on terror and that it was a base for a lot of the activities that existed in that part of the world.  They certainly left that strong impression.  Why else would more than half of the people in the country until very recently think that Iraq was the source of the attacks? 

MATTHEWS:  Until very recently.  Let me ask you about your experience.  You are a westerner.  You have worked here many years, but I know you pride yourself on being a bit of a cowboy, you‘re from out west, from Montana and you live out there a good part of the year now.  You‘ve been out there doing sort of David Broder work.  I wouldn‘t call it Shoe Leather work, but it‘s going around from ranch to ranch.  What do the American people feel right now about their government?  And I know you‘ve got a package on this.

BROKAW:  I do and it‘s not just in Montana.  I travel around the west a lot of.  I was in Wyoming, I was in Idaho this year, you know, I stay in touch with my home state of South Dakota, as well.  I was in Colorado for a time.  I think that it‘s fair to say that there‘s enormous uncertainty and great confusion about where we‘re going with this war and whether or not it is working. 

It‘s very hard for people to sometimes to separate the rhetoric of the president for example or Defense Secretary Rumsfeld or Dick Cheney yesterday from the reality that they can measure for themselves.  Cheney acknowledged yesterday that when he said a year ago that the insurgency was in the last throes, that he miscalculated.  Things don‘t seem to be getting better.  The Jihadist movement is spreading in that part of the world and so that‘s what I find out there. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take a look at your report. 

BROKAW:  All right, this is Montana and its reaction to what‘s going on. 


BROKAW (voice-over):  This is a long way from Ground Zero.  Montana, Big Sky country.  Montana is deeply involved in the war in Iraq.  It has the highest per capita military enlistment rate in the country.  But outside the Livingston, Montana American Legion, the war on terror isn‘t the number one worry. 

Norbert Herauf, a Korean War veteran. 

NORBERT HERAUF, KOREAN WAR VETERAN:  I would say that gas prices and health care are the main things. 

BROKAW:  Gasoline prices are especially painful in a state where the distances are so great and the outfits that they call their pickups and S.U.V. are so big.  Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer, a Democrat, knows the realities of the Middle East.  He worked there for six years as an agricultural specialist. 

GOV. BRIAN SCHWEITZER (D), MONTANA:  As long as we use oil, as long as we import oil, as long as 40 percent of all of the oil in the world flows through the straight of Hormuz in the Arabian Gulf, we will have a military presence in the Middle East.  So my challenge to Montanans and to the rest of this country is conservation and developing our own energy resources. 

BROKAW:  Schweitzer wants to develop Montana‘s large coal deposits as a liquid fuel but in the meantime the war goes on. 

SCHWEITZER:  We‘re faced with funerals like every place.  What do you say to the families?  If somebody could give me a script, I would like it, because this is the most difficult part of my job, to try and make sense of all of this. 

BROKAW:  Yet Iraq is not the overriding issue in Montana‘s spirited Senate race, where Democrats are trying to pick up the Republican seat of Conrad Burns, a strong supporter of the war. 

His opponent, farmer and state senator Jon Tester, is talking much more about health care and those gas prices.  The polls show him slightly ahead in a very tight race.  Back in Livingston, Larry Lahren, an archaeologist and county commissioner reflects on an unusual encounter this summer with Arab students who wanted to know more about America.

(on camera):  What do they want to know?

LARRY LAHREN, COUNTY COMMISSIONER:  Well the big question they had is why do Americans have so much and why do Americans hate us?  And it was kind of tough to answer that question, explained a few things about colonialism and materialism and the dependency on oil.

BROKAW:  But did they have any explanation for some of the mindless violence of the radical members of the Islamic faith?

LAHREN:  Yes, they did.  They described them as gang members and thugs and that they didn‘t really speak for their country either and that was a very good point that they made.

BROKAW:  What do these young people want to know from you that surprised you?

LAHREN:  They only wanted to know where they could find a wild cowboy kickass bar so they could go to and eat some Rocky Mountain raw oysters.


MATTHEWS:  Well, you found a Notre Dame fan out there.  Let me ask you, Tom, do they feel immune of what‘s happened here?

BROKAW:  They do.  They feel connected to New York, but you know, they feel a long way from the possibility of a terrorist attack obviously.  They‘re playing the consequences of it because in every town as I often say to my friends in New York when they talk about their kids‘ first and second choice when they graduate from high school.  I say in Big Timber, Montana, first choice marine corps, second choice, the air force.

This is the highest enlistment rating in the country on a per capita basis and they‘re losing a lot of their young people and their guard is being called up and reservists are being called up.  But they don‘t feel the terrorists are going to arrive there anytime soon and they feel more and more separated, I think from the solidarity that they felt on 9/11 five years ago.  I know that they were watching today however.

MATTHEWS:  You were through ‘74 and you were through ‘94, you‘ve seen upheaval years in American politics.  Does it smell like that this time? 

BROKAW:  It does.  I wouldn‘t be surprised if there‘s not a kind of throw everybody out attitude come Election Day.

MATTHEWS:  Why, because a couple of Democrats as well?

BROKAW:  Yes.  And I think a couple of Democrats can go down.  I mean, if you look at what happened to Murkowski in Alaska, it was kind of a special case, the incumbent Republican governor in his own primary finishes third.

MATTHEWS:  A lot of that happened in Pennsylvania this year, too, a lot of throwing the local guys out.  Tom Brokaw, thank you for sitting here.

BROKAW:  All right, see you later.

MATTHEWS:  Tom will we back.  He‘ll be back with us tonight at nine Eastern for analysis after the president‘s speech tonight along with our MSNBC colleague Joe Scarborough. 

Up next, a rare and exclusive interview and I mean rare with the director of national intelligence, John Negroponte.  Tonight at 10 Eastern, join us for an MSNBC living history special, “9/11: Five Years Later,” including remembrances of that faithful day from former secretary of state Colin Powell, current Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Senator Hillary Clinton of New York, top Bush adviser Karen Hughes and again another extremely rare interview with national intelligence director John Negroponte.  That‘s on an MSNBC living history event tonight at 10.

And we want to hear your memories of 9/11, your own thoughts and emotions.  Try posting them now at our Web site, MSNBC.com.  This is HARDBALL, live from Ground Zero, on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to this special edition of HARDBALL live from Ground Zero here in New York.  With national security a concern for all Americans, John Negroponte as director of national intelligence is the country‘s top intelligence official, who‘s responsible for overseeing agencies such as the CIA, the FBI and the NSA.  But back on September 11th, 2001, he was at the State Department preparing for his upcoming role as ambassador to the United Nations. 

In this rare and exclusive interview, I asked the intelligence chief about his memories of that day and for a status report on post 9/11 intelligence agency reforms.


JOHN NEGROPONTE, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE:  On 9/11, I was at the State Department preparing for my confirmation hearings to be ambassador to the United Nations, and I was in the middle of a session with various colleagues at the State Department when somebody came in with the news of the first aircraft.  And like a lot of other people I suspect, just kept on doing what we were doing previously, with regard to the first.

But then when the news came that the second aircraft had also slammed into the World Trade Center, we recognized obviously that something major had happened.  And so we also had a report that a bomb might have gone off inside of the State Department shortly thereafter, so we were ordered to evacuate the building.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you as a professional looking back five years now, looking back at 9/11, how did that change the meaning of intelligence in this country?

NEGROPONTE:  Well I think both in terms of how it changed the meaning of intelligence and foreign policy because I‘ve worked on both types of issues during these past five years, it completes the transition if you will. 

It‘s a huge break from the Cold War.  All of a sudden terrorism, global terrorism, international terrorism, that transnational issue moved to the front and center of our foreign and of our intelligence policy.  So that‘s the big shift.  And you‘re looking at somebody who‘s experience going back to the Cold War era, to the early 1960s and so it represented a huge paradigm shift.

MATTHEWS:  Intelligence was once aimed at influencing events abroad. 

Now intelligence seems to be much more a question of protecting us.

NEGROPONTE:  Yes.  I mean, intelligence is focused on preventing the first and foremost gathering information that can help us prevent and disrupt terrorist attacks against our homeland.  That‘s probably the single most important priority.

MATTHEWS:  In your community and I include all the agencies that report to you, Mr. Director, is there a sense of esprit about trying to be able to do that?  What is the ethos now of trying to be able to get ahead of them by a few hours?

NEGROPONTE:  Oh, I think it‘s enormous.  I think you‘ve seen evidence of that in the disruption of various plots that have taken place.  You also see much better cooperation between the key agencies, the FBI, the CIA, the National Security Agency.  They work as teams now.  There is teamwork all the way down to the local level, both in our country and abroad, between these agencies.  It‘s an integrated effort because it‘s not any one single intelligence methodology that is going to unravel, unearth these plots. 

It‘s usually a combination of human intelligence, on the one hand, and then technical intelligence of various kinds on the other.  You‘ve got to marry the two together and that‘s extremely important.  And I believe that with the reforms that have taken place and with the lesson learned from 9/11, these agencies are much, much better.  They‘re far, far ahead of where they were five years ago. 

MATTHEWS:  Is there such a thing as instinct in your business, a person who sees something like they used to say in the police movies, notice anything different, the anomalous event, the unusual that captures the attention of the pro? 

NEGROPONTE:  Sure there is.  I mean, you‘ve got a lot of leads.  Sometimes you get deluged with information.  You‘ve got to find ways of sifting out the wheat from the chaff and what leads are you going to follow up.  Sometimes you suffer from a surfeit of information.  So instinct and experience can be very valuable in those kinds of situations.  But you also have to be systematic.  You have to go about it these things in a very systematic way and with an intelligence community of close to 100,000 individuals across 16 agencies, we‘re in a position to be able to do that. 

MATTHEWS:  How has the culture of the intelligence community changed.  For example, we heard stories of people, maybe out in Arizona or somewhere up in Minnesota, where someone in an agency got a hint something was wrong.  Is there more reward, more good work kind of a sign to a person who raises their flag right now and says guys there is something wrong here? 

NEGROPONTE:  Well the intelligence, for example, has now been made a high priority skill in the FBI.  They‘ve created the National Security branch of the FBI and getting good intelligence has now got a premium in their personnel reward system as distinct from the past when the focus was exclusively on law enforcement. 

The other thing is integration, emphasizing integration between the key agencies, again I repeat, FBI, CIA and so forth.  And the third is information sharing.  You‘ve got to move it across the community.  You see a suspicious behavior like somebody getting flight training in some particular locality, well you‘ve got to feed that in because it might fit in with some bigger picture that people back here in Washington are putting together at our National Counterterrorism Center, for example. 

MATTHEWS:  Will we be able to detect and act on an unusual immigration of say 20 guys, begin to seek passports or visas to the United States from some country or something like that? 

NEGROPONTE:  Well, we‘re much better positioned to do that.  There is no absolute guarantee, but we‘ve certainly set up mechanisms, no fly lists, databases, checking on names of people prior to their boarding flights and so forth, that put us in a better position to prevent these kinds of things than prior to 9/11. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk about the country itself.  Do you think that we‘ve all been through the church committee review, where intelligence was in bad repute back in the 1970s and had to defend itself.  Well you know all about that and that culture.  Is there now a popularity, to put it bluntly, in the intelligence community from the public? 

NEGROPONTE:  Well, I think it‘s difficult.  I think there is an appreciation in large parts of our public, but it‘s, one of the difficulties is that the successes are very often things that we can‘t talk about publicly.  So it‘s kind of a catch 22 situation for the intelligence community.  You can‘t necessarily talk about the successes but people can, you know, enjoy talking about what goes wrong.  So we need to reach out as much as we can to the American public to explain what we‘re doing without revealing sensitive sources and methods.  It‘s a challenge. 

MATTHEWS:  When you look back on 9/11, the 3,000 dead, the war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan, the continued threat of al Qaeda, the whole world change.  How do you think it‘s changed the way Americans feel about being Americans in this world? 

NEGROPONTE:  Well, I think, first of all, I think that throughout, I think we‘ve known as a people what we stand for, our democracy, our political system and I think that we felt strongly that this war is a war to defend our values and our political philosophy against those who would seek to destroy it.  So I think that spirit, that sentiment is alive and well in our country and I think that that endures, just as it has throughout its history.  I think the change, of course, is that we‘re mindful of the rather dramatically different, the dramatically changed nature, if you will, of the threat from those who would seek to destroy our system. 


MATTHEWS:  As I said it‘s a rare opportunity, getting to talk to the Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte.  We‘re going to have more from him tonight in our MSNBC “Living History” event at 10:00 Eastern, “9/11 Five Years Later.”  He‘ll be a big part of that and we want to hear your memories of the 9/11 experience you‘ve been through.  Tell us what you can on our website, MSNBC.com. 

Up next a personal recollection of this solemn day from Senator John Edwards.  You‘re watching HARDBALL live from Ground Zero on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL live from Ground Zero in New York.  Tonight at 10:00 Eastern, an MSNBC “Living History” event, “9/11 Five Years Later,” with reflections from top government officials and other prominent Americans about where they were during the September 11th attacks.  I recently asked former Senator John Edwards to tell his story.  Let‘s listen to John Edwards of North Carolina. 


JOHN EDWARDS, FORMER VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  The second plane hit.  Pretty quickly after that we were told to evacuate immediately because the word had come that there was another plane that may be headed to Washington, may be headed to the Capitol, may be headed to the White House.  Since we were right there, they told us all to get out.  I left.  I went home. 

After I had been home, I was home with Elizabeth, my wife and my two younger children, Emma Claire and Jack.  After I had been there a short time, a capital policeman came and knocked on the door the door and said that they were taking the Senators to a secure location and I said to the policeman, I said, so all of us, me and family?  And he said no, just you and I said well no, I‘m not going anywhere without my kids and Elizabeth. 


MATTHEWS:  That‘s amazing.  Now we‘re going to hear from Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton on her reflections, on her experience five years ago, on what the fifth observance of 9/11 means for New York and of course the country.

And a reminder tonight at 10 Eastern, join me for an MSNBC living history special: “9/11: Five Years Later.”  You‘re watching HARDBALL live from Ground Zero on MSNBC.



MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to our special edition of HARDBALL, commemorating the fifth year observation of 9/11.  At 7 p.m., we‘ll present a special, live edition of HARDBALL with rMD+IN_rMDNM_New York Governor George Pataki.  Then at 9 p.m., full MSNBC coverage of the president‘s 9/11 address to the nation.  And I‘ll be joined for analysis by NBC‘s Tom Brokaw.

But first on the morning when the United States was attacked, New York Senator Hillary Clinton was in Washington preparing for a Senate committee meeting.  After the planes hit the Twin Towers, she immediately returned to New York.  Here‘s her personal reflection from that day and the weeks that followed.


SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK:  We took a helicopter into the city.  As were helicoptering over Ground Zero, we hovered above it.  I can‘t think of anything other than Dante‘s Inferno.  I mean, it was as close to a visual depiction of hell as I‘ve ever seen.  And we landed.  We went into the area of Ground Zero with the governor and the mayor. 

And I remember watching the firefighters coming out of this wall of black soot, dragging their axes some of them, totally exhausted, they had been on duty 24 hours straight and I just, my eyes were just totally teared up from the emotion plus the toxic stew that was in the air.

And I just watched these men come out of that hell and I just was so overwhelmed by their courage.  Everything that has been said about them, every single tribute that has been given to them is not adequate to what they did, to the danger they ran into, to the lives they saved.

MATTHEWS:  Can you remember where you were when you first heard?

CLINTON:  Absolutely.  I was getting ready to leave my house here in Washington to come to a committee meeting of the so-called help committee.  Laura Bush was scheduled to testify that morning to our committee.  Mrs.  Bush had been taken to safety, obviously the meeting was not going to be held.  The Secret Service sort of came to me and said, we want to get you out of here.  We don‘t know what‘s going to happen and I pay attention to them as I have for the last many years.

So I said where are we going to go?  And they said, well, why don‘t you go back home until we know what‘s going on.  So I took a couple of staff with me because I knew we were going to have to figure out who to contact and I start trying to call first of all, my daughter.  She had been in New York that morning staying with one of her friends who lived down town. 

My husband was in Australia, I‘m trying to find him.  So I get back to my house and I‘m just glued in front of the T.V. set, dialing up, talking to people, obviously talking to my colleagues, talking to my staff, talking to the governor, talking to the mayor, putting in the call to the president, just what are we to do?  What is expected?  You know, later that day, we had a full Senate meeting over at the Capitol Hill police headquarters.

MATTHEWS:  When did you talk to your husband?

CLINTON:  I finally reached him sometime that day.  It all blurs together.  The president—President Bush sent a plane for him to get him back, which I thought it was a very kind gesture on his part.

So we were out of communication after basically he said he was all right, he wanted to know how we were and tried to get more information from me and then we were out of communication for hours because he was on the plane. 

But he finally got home and Chelsea, with so many people from lower Manhattan, had to walk north, so many blocks, and it was just an extraordinary experience for her and the friends that she was with.

MATTHEWS:  You‘re a senator from New York, and how do you think that affected your feelings on 9/11?

CLINTON:  You know, Chris, I think I would have been affected as most of us were no matter where I was or what I was doing, but the fact that I felt such a sense of responsibility was just overwhelming.

I cannot tell you how just deeply emotionally impacted I was.  I wanted to be there to help the victims.  I wanted to be there to help the survivors, I wanted to be there to help the city.  So the fact that I had a job that was connected with trying to be in some way supportive and responsive, both made it more real because I had to get up every single day and figure out what I was going to do.  And much more personal than I think would have been even possible had I been somewhere else in the country.

MATTHEWS:  When the 9/11 hijackers went into the buildings, people say they were shrieking with delight.

CLINTON:  Well, we‘ve heard that before.  We‘ve heard stories of people who in this religious frenzy that they get worked into or manipulated into, I‘ve never quite figured that out, feel as though they‘re going to paradise, and it is a mindset that is very difficult for people like us to even, you know, penetrate, we don‘t understand how someone could worship death, who could believe that they would be rewarded in paradise for murdering innocent people. 

You know, frankly, the ones who sent them to their deaths are the real, you know, masterminds of this. 

MATTHEWS:  The question is phrased and argued that the world is different after 9/11.  What do you think? 

CLINTON:  Well, I think it certainly is for me.  It is for many Americans and the way that an event of such enormous importance sort of divides your life, pre-9/11 and post-9/11.  And for thousands of people, life will never be the same. 

But I think it‘s also important that we maintain our values and our common sense about who we are as people and how we have to promote our interests and our concerns in the world, and how we have to make more friends and allies and not enemies, because if we‘re in for a long struggle, as we hear all the time—and I don‘t doubt that, I think it is a struggle against an ideology that has religious overtones to it—then we have got to be smart about how we‘re dealing with that. 

So we can‘t act ads though we were all born on 9/11.  We have to look at history, we have to learn from history.  We have to summon the best among us.  We have to be smart about, you know, what‘s the best way to defeat this new enemy we have. 

So I think that it‘s a combination of, yes, recognizing it was a unbelievable shift in thinking and a historic milestone.  But you know, we‘re Americans and we have a lot that we can draw on and we believe in our convictions, and how we then present that to the world is really important.  So I hope that we kind of carry both the significance of the event, but also place it in a larger context as we go forward in the world. 


MATTHEWS:  You‘ll see more of Senator Clinton‘s reflections on the September 11th attacks tonight at 10:00 Eastern, on our MSNBC Living History Event, “9/11 Five Years Later,” that‘s tonight at 10:00 Eastern. 

Up next, you‘ll hear John McCain share his memories from 9/11.  This is HARDBALL live from Ground Zero on MSNBC. 


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to Ground Zero in New York. 

As the country commemorates the fifth observance of 9/11, five years ago when it was clear the country was under attack, the U.S. Capitol was evacuated and Senator John McCain continued working in a near by apartment.  I recently sat down with Senator McCain, who shared his memories of that day. 


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R-AZ):  Here in my Senate office and I had the television set on and saw the film of the planes impacting the World Trade Center and I‘m sure that I shared the same emotions as every American, shock, disbelief, anger, grave, grave concern about what was going to happen next. 

I think the biggest thing in most of our minds was, what‘s next?  And clearly, one of the things that might have been next was Flight 93 coming down to either hit the Capitol or the White House.  Thank God for those brave young Americans who prevented it. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you know in real time that it might have been headed to the Capitol? 

MCCAIN:  No, I did not.  But it just made sense to me that if they‘re going to strike the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, that why wouldn‘t one of the targets be the Capitol or the White House. 

MATTHEWS:  Did you evacuate with your staff and everyone else? 

MCCAIN:  Yes, I couldn‘t get very far from the Capitol, so a staffer of mine has an apartment near here, and we went to her apartment because there was just no way of getting off Capitol Hill, everything was stopped.  And I spent the day on the phone and in front of the television set, just like most Americans. 

MATTHEWS:  You‘ve been at war, grew up with the threat of a nuclear war, a Third World War, hiding under school desks, that whole thing, and then you spend all that time in the Hanoi Hilton, so you know war in a conventional sense and in a nuclear, potential sense. 

What does war mean to you now? 

MCCAIN:  I guess the first emotion I have about this war is its complexities.  And I‘m not saying the cold war was simplistic, there was many, many ramifications of the cold war.  But it was pretty clear, the nature of the enemy, the threat we faced and the ideological struggle we were in. 

This is far more complex, far more difficult.  When you hear, as we just did in the last few days about a homegrown terrorist again, that had never been born in the Middle East but had spent the majority of their lives in London or in Paris or in Belgium, in the case of some young woman who married an extremist, that you understand that this is a very deep seated and complex and long struggle we‘re involved in. 

MATTHEWS:  As a political leader, what‘s your sense of how the American people in New York and around the country, how they took the impact? 

MCCAIN:  I think they took it very well and I think that it‘s added another chapter of heroes in America‘s history. 

But I also think we passed up an opportunity after September 11th.  I think we should have said, we‘re going to double the size of the Peace Corps, triple the size of Americorps, we‘re going to set up volunteer organizations all over America to ensure our security.  We‘re going to give young people $18,000 in educational benefits for 18 months of military service, call Americans to serve.  The country was united.  We should have called them to serve, not just tell them to take a trip or go shopping. 

MATTHEWS:  Why is this important? 

MCCAIN:  Because we‘re in this together.  Right now, unfortunately, but it is the history of our democracy, a small percentage of our population are bearing the brunt of this war and paying the price.  In real democracies everybody contributes and everybody serves as we spread sacrifice out amongst all the people as much as we can.  We‘re not doing that now. 

MATTHEWS:  In world war II Roosevelt sold war bonds and we had rationing and we had universal conscription? 

MCCAIN:  We stopped manufacturing civilian cars. 

MATTHEWS:  And that‘s important? 

MCCAIN:  I think it‘s important to ask Americans to sacrifice and I think we politicians grossly underestimate the American people‘s willingness to sacrifice when they see there is a cause and a threat and certainly most Americans see that. 

MATTHEWS:  You have got two young members of your family, two sons who have made the decision, in a time when there is no draft, a free decision to lead the normal course of their lives growing up, getting educations getting married, whatever, to join the military service.  Connect that, if you can, they‘re young guys, five years ago was 9/11. 

MCCAIN:  Well, I think in the case of both of them, they have a desire to serve the country, but, and I‘d like to say that that‘s solely it, but I also think that they‘re a lot like me when I was 18 and 19 and 20 years old.  They have a great spirit of adventurousness. 

MATTHEWS:  Action? 

MCCAIN:  Yes, they like the action.  And, of course, when you‘re 18 or 19 or 20, you‘re totally invulnerable.  So, you know, I‘d like to attribute it to their patriotism and I think that that certainly plays a role but they‘re adventurous young men and thank god there are lots of adventurous young men around America today. 


MATTHEWS:  What an honest statement and an upbeat one.  When we return, former CIA counterterrorism director Cofer Black will talk about the hunt for bin Laden.  We all want to know about that.  And also that question again, how say are we five years after 9/11.  You‘re watching HARDBALL live from Ground Zero on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to Ground Zero in the fifth year observance of the 9/11 attacks.  Cofer Black served 28 years in the CIA and was the director of the agency‘s counter terrorism center when the 9/11 attacks happened.  After the attacks he became the State Department‘s coordinator for counter terrorism.  He is now vice chairman of Black Water U.S.A. 

Mr. Black thank you for joining us.  Your own reflections now on how it happened, the role played by bin Laden, the role played by Khaled Sheikh Mohammed?   

COFER BLACK, FMR. DIR. OF CIA‘S COUNTER-TERRORISM CTR.:  Nice to talk to you, Chris.  This situation had been involving over a considerable period of time.  We in the counter terrorism center had been tracking these individuals, I myself had served in Khartoum, Sudan and had an active collection program against al Qaeda, as well as Osama bin Laden, and Khaled Sheikh Mohammed and the rest of these guys. 

We developed, I think, a pretty comprehensive strategic picture of what was happening.  In fact we had been expecting a major attack, primarily in the month of August, and it rolled into September, we came to work, and it was a day like any other day in the situation of heightened crisis.  The first aircraft that flew into the tower was noted.  We sent out directions to find out additional information that we could on it. 

Interestingly enough, thereafter, right before the second aircraft flew into the tower a colleague of mine from the CIA, who was in New York, who I had served with previously, very accomplished in these things, reported back to me on the phone that the pilot of the 737-like aircraft, as he described it, was actually being controlled into the tower.  And at that instant he said, you know, the second has been struck. 

Immediately we started issuing orders, in terms of getting passenger lists, trying to figure out who was behind that.  We pretty quickly determined it was al Qaeda, and the day began from that.  Most importantly, what happened, who did it, and were there any follow-on attacks.  The day went through very quickly, in a very exacting way.  We met at several locations in the CIA headquarters.  For security we were moved with some regularity. 

Most of the people in the counter terrorism center stayed for days thereafter.  We very quickly identified who was behind it.  We started reaching out to our assets overseas, both CIA and friends, as well as, at the direction of George Tenant, updated our war attack plan into Afghanistan against al Qaeda and the Taliban, as well as update the worldwide attack matrix, which was to go against the spectrum of al Qaeda and al Qaeda associated terrorist groups.  Most of the people at the counter terrorism center were there for days.  I think I got home after about six days, five nights, six days. 

We went to meetings with the White House, with our leadership in that period of time.  We were greatly inspired by the heroism of the people of New York, and how they addressed this issue.  We were not surprised.  We were shocked.  We took inspiration from our fellow Americans, and to a certain extent, I think virtually all of us that do counter terrorism felt blessed that we were in this position to be able to retaliate against these mass murderers and retaliate we did. 

MATTHEWS:  Mr. Black, thank you very much for joining us.  Cofer Black, the counter terrorist expert.  I will be back in one hour for another addition of HARDBALL, live from here on Ground Zero and at 9:00 Eastern, join me for live coverage here on MSNBC of President Bush‘s address to the country.  Then at 10:00 Eastern, our special “9/11, Five Years Later.”  You‘ve got to catch that tonight.  Right now it‘s time for Tucker.



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